Architectural Design in a Post-COVID World

When a pandemic hits, it’s no surprise that people’s way of life changes with it. You try to say farther away from other people, wear your mask out in public, and scrub your hands with hand sanitizer much more often. What might surprise many, however, is that a pandemic can impact the way buildings are designed. In the early 20th century, for example, tuberculosis inspired architects to design buildings with elements that could help people recover from it.

The new designs they incorporated, such as light-colored rooms and expansive windows across long walls, ended up becoming mainstays in architectural design as a whole, making up much of what we now recognize as modernist architecture. In the same way that tuberculosis inspired new architectural styles, COVID-19 will likely lead architects to develop new designs that could lead to major changes in the field.

How Architects and Designers Are Responding to COVID-19

With COVID-19 still a danger to many, architects and designers are in high demand as businesses hope to remain open but want to ensure their employees and customers come into a safe environment. Essentially what coronavirus means for architects and designers is that they need to meet the challenge of encouraging social distancing while still making businesses inviting for staff and customers.

One industry where designers are already making an impact is in the retail industry. To combat the spread of airborne germs, companies are already installing privacy panels and sneeze guards in grocery stores and shops all around the nation.

These preventative barriers encourage social distancing, and designers continue to find ways to implement barriers into retail locations, as well as office spaces. Designers are using panel brackets to mount protective barriers onto furniture to keep office workers separated. Since a barrier can change the look and feel of a room, designers must find ways to mount these barriers in an attractive manner.

Designers are also assisting businesses as they decide what type of barrier they need, how big they should be, and the material they should be made from. For example, designers can scope out where an office will need translucent barriers for easy communication and where they’ll need opaque barriers for greater privacy.

Besides implementing barriers, architects are redesigning parks and other public spaces to let people get outside but do so safely. In these redesigned parks, the layout and features encourage social distancing. One simple example of this can already be seen in New York’s Domino Park, where staff members painted white circles onto the grass to help people see where they should be to stay 6 feet away from each other.

Another primary way architects are responding to pandemics is by further developing lightweight architecture. The pandemic has caused a greater need for emergency facilities to be put up quickly. You can already see an investment in tent-like structures that serve as testing centers and field hospitals. One impressive innovation has been a domed bio-containment pod that can be set up quickly and is designed to help coronavirus patients isolate.

Four Ways COVID-19 Will Change Architecture

Will coronavirus change architecture and design? Almost certainly. The impact of coronavirus on architecture design has already been seen and will likely continue to inspire new changes among those designing buildings and other structures. Even after COVID-19 is controlled, people will wary of entering a public space where lots of people are gathered without much room between them.

Due to people’s concerns over greater hygiene and safety in the workplace and out in public, there will be greater demand for the architectural industry to respond to a public’s fears about viruses spreading. As such, architectural design and COVID-19 will be tied together for quite some time. Below are some of the primary ways businesses can expect architecture to change:

1. New Public Space Designs and Structures

Public parks and other spaces where communities are expected to gather will likely be redesigned to help keep people separated. Through the use of natural features and structures, architects can cause the landscape of a park to disperse people and direct them along appropriate routes. There may also be increased structures and other features that point people to safe areas and highlight buffer zones.

2. Great Reliance on Modular Construction

Many countries were caught off guard by COVID-19 and didn’t have the space for all of the patients who needed treatment in their hospitals. Forward-thinking health-care facilities and organizations that experience greater demand during a pandemic might invest in modular construction, allowing these groups to put up buildings or rooms quickly through prefabricated modules.

You can already see an example of modular construction in China, where a 1,000-bed hospital was built in around one week using modular construction methods. As countries and companies look to increase their readiness for crises, architectural firms will continue to invest in modular construction for its speed and flexibility.

3. Renovation of Open Offices

Open office floorplans were already going out of fashion before COVID-19, but the pandemic might be an opportunity to re-visit its design. In an open office, employees work in close contact with one another, with little to no barriers between them. This sort of design is a problem when you’re trying to social distance. Even without the fear of a virus spreading, many workers didn’t like the open office due to how it unintentionally encouraged distractions. With that in mind, a thoughtfully designed and creatively colored, semi-transparent or opaque barrier could provide social distancing, cost effectiveness, and an aesthetically pleasing solution to some of the major problems with the existing open office plan.

The new office space will likely try to find the balance between promoting collaboration and communication while also giving workers the space to isolate for greater concentration. We’ll continue to see architects try to strike that balance, while also promoting proper hygiene into the future. It’s almost certain that open offices will be re-defined and a new workplace will emerge as the work force heads back into the office.

4. Implementation of Hands-Free Tech

As designers and architects redesign or build a commercial space from scratch, there’s going to be an increased demand for features that allow people to avoid touching anything as they make their way to their desks or use common areas, like breakrooms and bathrooms. Automated, hands-free technology will be integrated into design plans, with features voice-activated elevators, automatic doors and touchless light switches becoming more of the norm.

Need Architectural Design Services or Building Engineers? Choose ETC

For those looking for architectural or building engineer services, Engineering and Technical Consultants can help. At ETC, we strive to be known as the best. With that goal in mind, we put a great deal of care into all our projects, from designing new stairwell enclosures and office renovations to building multi-family living complexes and rooftop decks. Since we have both engineers and architects on staff, we have a seamless design and construction process.

Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives about how we can help your company meet the new demands of coronavirus.